Basic Food Stamp Rights
Below are some of your basic food stamp rights to help you advocate for yourself or for someone else. At the end of each section is a number that identifies the Department of Transitional Assistance’s regulations giving you this right. These rules are under Chapter 106 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR). Every DTA office has these rules available to the public.
If you decide to apply for benefits, you have the RIGHT to:
- File an application form the same day you ask for it. 106 CMR 361.130 You do not have to be interviewed prior to filing. You can mail it, fax it or fill it out at your local DTA office! You can also apply at the Social Security Office if everyone in your household is applying for or receives SSI! Benefits are paid as of the date you signed the form If you can’t fill out the whole form, you can send it with your just your name, address, signature and date. Your benefits will go back to the date DTA receives the form, if approved. 106 CMR 361.120
- Apply even if you are homeless. You do not need to have a permanent address or rent receipts for food stamps. 106 CMR 362.100, 362.120. You do not need to have cooking facilities. 106 CMR 360.100 DTA must also try to get you your food stamps as quickly as possible.
- Receive emergency “expedited” food stamps within 7 days of when you apply if your gross income totals less than $150 a month and your assets total less than $100; if your shelter expenses are higher than your gross monthly income and countable assets; or if you are a migrant household. 106 CMR 365.810
- Have an adult you trust apply for you as an “authorized representative” 106 CMR 361.300, and/or bring a friend or advocate to DTA just to help you apply.
- Get a waiver of the DTA office face-to-face interview if you cannot come into the DTA office because you are disabled, caring for someone who is disabled, as well as if you have child care problems, transportation needs, or your hours of work or training program conflict with DTA office hours. 106 CMR 361.510
- Receive a list of all the proofs you need to bring to DTA and help getting them if you need it. If you don't have the proofs on the list, DTA must tell you about other ways you can prove you are eligible and help you get the proofs you need. 106 CMR 361.640, 361.650.
- Receive a written notice of denial or approval, the amount you will get and for how long. If your food stamps are being cut, you must get a notice 10 days before DTA cut them. Notices must give a clear reason you are denied or cut, the regulation used in making the decision and your right to appeal. 106 CMR 364.810 Be treated with dignity, consideration and respect 106 CMR 701.300, and to be treated without discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, or disability. 106 CMR 360.200
- If your primary language is not English and you need an interpreter, DTA must provide one. 106 CMR 360.510 Also, a Superior Court has ruled that you have a right to receive written notices denying or stopping your benefits in your own language if you do not speak English. See an advocate about this.
You also have the RIGHT to:
- See your welfare file within 30 days of your request 106 CMR 105.030, 360.400 and make copies of information in your DTA file (first 20 copies are free). 106 CMR 100.060
- Discuss your case in private with your DTA worker and have all information in your file protected. 106 CMR 104.010, 360.400. For example, you don't have to discuss your case in the reception area. And DTA cannot share any personal information in your file without your written permission.
- Appeal any DTA decisions you disagree with such as when your food stamps are denied, reduced, suspended or cut off. 106 CMR 343.230. Make this request in writing to the Division of Hearings, DTA, P.O. Box 4017, Taunton MA 02780-0314 or fax (both sides) to (617) 348-5311. Keep a copy of anything you send. Contact Legal Services immediately to help you.
- Continue to receive your food stamps while your appeal is pending, unless it is the end of your certification period. To protect your benefits, make the request within 10 days of the date on the notice. 106 CMR 343.250
- Ask for a hearing to challenge improper or coercive conduct if your worker threatens you, makes unreasonable demands that do not follow the rules, violates your privacy or does not treat you with dignity and respect. 106 CMR 343.235
- Bring a friend, relative, advocate or lawyer to represent you in a fair hearing or any other business you have with the Department. 106 CMR 343.150
If you have a question about your benefits or need help, contact:
- Project Bread FoodSource Hotline: Statewide toll-free service will screen callers for food stamp eligibility, send applications, refer emergencies to local food pantries and other food programs. Call 1-800-645-8333 Mon - Fri, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM.
- Recipient Services. Located at DTA’s Central Office, Recipient Services can often help with a problem involving your welfare or food stamp benefits. Call 1-800-841-2900 (toll free) or 1-617-292-8900 (Boston area) to get information and intervention if needed.
- Free Legal Services. Check a phonebook for the number of the Legal Services office in your area.